Christian Worship, Prayers and Sacraments

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Trappist praying

According to the BBC: Christian worship involves praising God in music and speech, readings from scripture, prayers of various sorts, a sermon, and various holy ceremonies (often called sacraments) such as the Eucharist. While worship is often thought of only as services in which Christians come together in a group, individual Christians can worship God on their own, and in any place. [Source: June 23, 2009 BBC |::|]

Christian worship grew out of Jewish worship. Jesus Christ was a religious Jew who attended the synagogue and celebrated Jewish festivals, and his disciples were familiar with Jewish ritual and tradition. The first obvious divergence from Judaism was making Sunday the holy day instead of Saturday. By doing this the day of Christian worship is the same as the day that Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus's promise to stay with his followers, fulfilled in the sending of the Holy Spirit, illuminated the development of Christian worship from early times. |So Christians regard worship as something that they don't only do for God, but that God, through Jesus's example and the presence of the Holy Spirit is also at work in. |::|

“Church services on a Sunday divide into two general types: Eucharistic services and services of the Word. Both types of service will include hymns, readings and prayers. The Eucharistic service will be focussed on the act of Holy Communion. The service of the Word does not include this rite, but instead features a much longer sermon, in which the preacher will speak at length to expound a biblical text and bring out its relevance to those present. |::|

“Different churches, even within the same denomination, will use very different styles of worship. Some will be elaborate, with a choir singing difficult music, others will hand the music over to the congregation, who sing simpler hymns or worship songs. Some churches leave much of the action to the minister, while others encourage great congregational participation. (Of course all churches encourage the full participation of the congregation in praising God with heart, mind, and soul, but some churches give the congregation more physical participation.) |::|

Websites and Resources: Christianity Britannica on Christianity ; History of Christianity ; BBC on Christianity ;Wikipedia article on Christianity Wikipedia ; Religious Tolerance ; Christian Answers ; Christian Classics Ethereal Library ; Bible: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible ; King James Version of the Bible ;

Early Christianity: Elaine Pagels website ; Sacred Texts website ; Gnostic Society Library ; PBS Frontline From Jesus to Christ, The First Christians ; Guide to Early Church Documents; Early Christian Writing ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins ; Early Christian Art ; Early Christian Images ; Early Christian and Byzantine Images

Christian Prayers

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Rosary and Bible
Blessings are words of prayer offered by a priest or a religious figure to someone or something. They can also be simply asking someone to pray for someone. Parishioners go to their local church to receive blessings from a priest or preacher. Pilgrims venture to special churches or religious places to receive blessings there. In recent years some churches — such as the famous Basilica of the Annunciation in Jesus’s hometown of Nazareth — have begin offering blessings over the Internet. They fee is around $10 per prayer with the fee covering the system costs not the prayer, which is free.

According to the BBC: “Prayer is the means by which Christians communicate with their God. The New Testament records that Jesus taught his disciples how to pray and that he encouraged them to address God as Father. Christians believe that they continue this tradition. Sometimes the prayers are formal and part of a ritual laid down for hundreds of years. Others are personal and spontaneous, and come from personal or group need. “Whilst prayer is often directed to God as Father, as taught by Jesus, some traditions encourage prayer to God through intermediaries such as saints and martyrs. Prayers through Mary, as the mother of God, are central to some churches and form a traditional part of their worship. [Source: BBC, August 14, 2009]

Many Christian rituals were adopted from Judaism: 1) daily and weekly Christian worship are modeled on synagogue practices; 2) nonsecration of bread and wine is inspired by the Passover Seder; and 3) the four elements — prayer, psalmody, scripture reading and sermon — are all part of Jewish service.

Many Christian symbols — crucifixes, rosaries, communion and holy water — can be traced back to the Egyptian Osiris cult. Osiris was a human who was resurrected as a god.

Circumcision is something that is associated more with Judaism and Islam because it reenacts the covenant (promise) between Abraham and God. It is also practiced by many Christians, and for that matter people of other religions. Often it has no religious significance but rather that is done because it is thought to be healthy and hygienic. See Judaism.

Christian Prayers

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El Greco's The Repentant Peter
Prayers are a way in which the faithful communicate with God, either through praise, asking for help or mediating over scripture. Christian prayers are addressed to the Holy Trinity; God, Christ and the Holy Ghost and is regarded as a way to enter the trinity. Christians often kneel to express their humility. Prayers can be silent or spoken or chanted. Churches generally have an area set aside for prayers.

The Lords Prayer from Matthew 6:19: “Our Lord in Heaven, Hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven, Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power and the glory our Yours, now and forever.”

Prayers should ideally be made while standing (a sign of respect to God) delivered facing east (towards the rising sun, a symbol of the resurrected Christ). Sometimes the hands are held, for example, during the recitation of the Lord’s prayer, in mass. This is an ancient position found depicted in catacombs from the earliest Christian times. The custom of joining one’s hands together in prayer is a custom that evolving in the 9th century as a symbol of submission to god and an indication that the person praying wasn't carrying a weapon. The modern praying position was not mentioned in the Bible. Early Christians and Jews prayed by spreading their arms skyward.

Jews have traditionally said grace before meal, a custom that was picked up and continued by Christians.

See Gestures, Rosary Beads

Daily Prayers in the 4th Century

Egeria, Etheroiua or Aetheria was a woman, widely regarded as the author of Peregrinatio (pilgrimage) – a detailed account of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the A.D. 380s — from which this description is from. Scholars believe she is either from Spain or Gaul (France).

Egeria wrote in the A.D. 380s: “ Now that your affection may know what is the order of service (operatio) day by day in the holy places, I must inform you, for I know that you would willingly have this knowledge. Every day before cockcrow all the doors of the Anastasis are opened, and all the monks and virgins, as they call them here, go thither, and not they alone, but lay people also, both men and women, who desire to begin their vigil early. And from that hour to daybreak hymns are said and psalms are sung responsively (responduntur), and antiphons in like manner; and prayer is made after each of the hymns. For priests, deacons, and monks in twos or threes take it in turn every day to say prayers after each of the hymns or antiphons. [Source: 1. Matins, “XXIV 1, “Egeria's Description of the Liturgical Year in Jerusalem” based on the translation reproduced in Louis Duchesme's Christian Worship (London, 1923), published online by Michael Fraser, Department of Theology, University of Durham. June 1994, ]

“2. But when day breaks they begin to say the Matin hymns. Thereupon the bishop arrives with the clergy, and immediately enters into the cave, and from within the rails (cancelli) he first says a prayer for all, mentioning the names of those whom he wishes to commemorate; he then blesses the catechumens, afterwards he says a prayer and blesses the faithful. And when the bishop comes out from within the rails, every one approaches his hand, and he blesses them one by one as he goes out, and the dismissal takes place, by daylight.

“2. Sext and None. 3. In like manner at the sixth hour all go again to the Anastasis, and psalms and antiphons are said, while the bishop is being summoned; then he comes as before, not taking his seat, but he enters at once within the rails in the Anastasis, that is in the cave, just as in the early morning, and as then, he again first says a prayer, then he blesses the faithful, and as he comes out from [within] the rails every one approaches his hand. And the same is done at the ninth hour as at the sixth.

“3. Vespers. 4. Now at the tenth hour, which they call here licinicon, or as we say lucernare, all the people assemble at the Anastasis in the same manner, and all the candles and tapers are lit, making a very great light. Now the light is not introduced from without, but it is brought forth from within the cave, that is from within the rails, where a lamp is always burning day and night, and the vesper psalms and antiphons are said, lasting for a considerable time. Then the bishop is summoned, and he comes and takes a raised seat, and likewise the priests sit in their proper places, and hymns and antiphons are said.

“5. And when all these have been recited according to custom, the bishop rises and stands before the rails, that is, before the cave, and one of the deacons makes the customary commemoration of individuals one by one. And as the deacon pronounces each name the many little boys who are always standing by, answer with countless voices: Kyrie eleyson, or as we say Miserere Domine.

“6. And when the deacon has finished all that he has to say, first the bishop says a prayer and prays for all, then they all pray, both the faithful and catechumens together. Again the deacon raises his voice, bidding each catechumen to bow his head where he stands, and the bishop stands and says the blessing over the catechumens. Again prayer is made, and again the deacon raises his voice and bids the faithful, each where he stands, to bow the head, and the bishop likewise blesses the faithful. Thus the dismissal takes place at the Anastasis.

“7. And one by one all draw near to the bishop's hand. Afterwards the bishop is conducted from the Anastasis to the Cross [with] hymns, all the people accompanying him, and when he arrives he first says a prayer, then he blesses the catechumens, then another prayer is said and he blesses the faithful. Thereupon both the bishop and the whole multitude further proceed behind the Cross, where all that was done before the Cross is repeated, and they approach the hand of the bishop behind the Cross as they did at the Anastasis and before the Cross. Moreover, there are hanging everywhere a vast number of great glass chandeliers, and there are also a vast number of cereofala, before the Anastasis, before the Cross and behind the Cross, for the whole does not end until darkness has set in. This is the order of daily services (operatio) at the Cross and at the Anastasis throughout the six days.

Sunday Prayers in the 4th Century

“8. But on the seventh day, that is on the Lord's Day, the whole multitude assembles before cockcrow, in as great numbers as the place can hold, as at Easter, in the basilica which is near the Anastasis, but outside the doors, where lights are hanging for the purpose. And for fear that they should not be there at cockcrow they come beforehand and sit down there. Hymns as well as antiphons are said, and prayers are made between the several hymns and antiphons, for at the vigils there are always both priests and deacons ready there for the assembling of the multitude, the custom being that the holy places are not opened before cockcrow. [Source: 1. Matins, “XXIV 1, “Egeria's Description of the Liturgical Year in Jerusalem” based on the translation reproduced in Louis Duchesme's Christian Worship (London, 1923), published online by Michael Fraser, Department of Theology, University of Durham. June 1994, ]

“9. Now as soon as the first cock has crowed, the bishop arrives and enters the cave at the Anastasis; all the doors are opened and the whole multitude enters the Anastasis, where countless lights are already burning. And when the people have entered, one of the priests says a psalm to which all respond, and afterwards prayer is made; then one of the deacons says a psalm and prayer is again made, a third psalm is said by one of the clergy, prayer is made for the third time and there is a commemoration of all.

“10. After these three psalms and three prayers are ended, lo! censers are brought into the cave of the Anastasis so that the whole basilica of the Anastasis is filled with odours. And then the bishop, standing within the rails, takes the book of the Gospel, and proceeding to the door, himself reads the (narrative of the) Resurrection of the Lord. And when the reading is begun, there is so great a moaning and groaning among all, with so many tears, that the hardest of heart might be moved to tears for that the Lord had borne such things for us.

“11. After the reading of the Gospel the bishop goes out, and is accompanied to the Cross by all the people with hymns, there again a psalm is said an(l prayer is made, after which he blesses the faithful and the dismissal takes place, and as he comes out all approach to his hand.

“12. And forthwith the bishop betakes himself to his house, and from that hour all the monks return to the Anastasis, where psalms and antiphons, with prayer after each psalm or antiphon, are said until daylight; the priests and deacons also keep watch in turn daily at the Anastasis with the people, but of the lay people, whether men or women, those who are so minded, remain in the place until daybreak, and those who are not, return to their houses and betake themselves to sleep.”


Abraham and Ishmael being circumcised

According to the BBC: In the Old Testament circumcision is clearly defined as a covenant between God and all Jewish males. Circumcision is not laid down as a requirement in the New Testament. Instead, Christians are urged to be "circumcised of the heart" by trusting in Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross. [Source: BBC |::|]

“As a Jew, Jesus was himself circumcised (Luke 2:21; Colossians 2:11-12). However, circumcision was a big issue in the early Christian Church. Adult Greeks, in particular, who converted to Christianity were unwilling to undergo the painful operation. |::|

“The ritual was not enforced amongst non-Jewish converts and circumcision was even seen by some as being contrary to the Christian faith. It became a sign of separation between circumcised Jews and new adherents of Christianity. The issue was debated in the Didache, one of the earliest Christian documents discovered.

Christian Liturgy

Saint John Chrysostom, who lived in the early 4th century, is the father of the liturgy that is still used in both the Catholic and the Orthodox church. The Liturgy of the Hours is a set of daily prayers also widely used in mass. It consists primarily of psalms supplemented by hymns and scripture readings. The liturgy of the Word, the first part of the mass, consists mostly of readings from the Bible, with the most important passages coming from the Gospels.

The primary sources of liturgy are: 1) liturgical tags, catch-phrases, and affirmations found in the New Testament and to a lesser degree in the Old Testament; 2) baptisms and Eucharist introductions and declarations; 3) easy-to-remember religious creeds that serve as a way of making doctrines and dogma palatable to ordinary people.

20120508-Karfreitag 2.jpg Dom Robert L Gall, Abbot of Kergonan, wrote in “Symbols of Catholicism” that the Catholic liturgy is like a “a symphony: each instrument is an essential element of the overall work, playing its own part and displaying it to the full...Even though Christianity cannot be said to be choreographed, it nevertheless implies precise organization of the movement of its various participants. It’s ceremonial side is a necessity, so that the liturgical rites can take place in absolute peace and communicate a sensation of sacredness to the faithful.”

Roman Catholic liturgy is extremely biblical, perhaps even more than the liturgy of the eastern Orthodox Christian churches, where large numbers of long prayers are still inspired by Scriptures. Orthodox Christians regard the liturgy as the essence of Orthodoxy. And the focal point of this is the Eucharist. The living and the dead are regarded as single congregation. Liturgical action and prayers sanctify both their soul and their bodies.

Catholics observe their liturgy in three cycles: 1) Hours (made up of prayers, psalms and readings, which sanctify various movements of the day and include Vespers at the end of the afternoon); 2) the Weekly Cycle, which starts with Sunday mass, with Friday, the day that Christ, died, being a day of penance; and 3) the yearly cycle which includes several liturgical moments such the festivals of the saints and cycles of Christmas and Easter.

Christian Sacraments

The most important Christian rituals are the seven sacraments: 1) baptism; 2) Eucharist (communion); 3) confirmation; 4) penance and confession; 5) marriage; 6) unction (anointing the sick); and 7) holy orders (by which laymen are raised for the priesthood). These sacraments are still recognized by the Catholic Church (and mostly by the Orthodox church) but have been rejected, with the exception of baptism and communion, by the Protestant church. There are other sacraments in the Orthodox church but these are not regarded as important as the seven previously mentioned ones.

Baptism and Eucharist are the central rituals of Christianity and churches were established in part to conduct them. Baptism is something that is performed once and lasts for life. Eucharist is something repeated by the community as a whole as a means of bonding a community and reaffirming their faith.

The three sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist are regarded as necessary to complete the Christian initiation. Baptism makes the believer a son of God and washes away original sin while Confirmations invests him with the Holy Spirit. In the old days they were received together during a single ceremony, often performed around Easter and was seen as the introduction of a “neophyte” into the “divine” mysteries of the church.

All the sacraments are carried out so they ascribe to the concept of an individual as being part of a community rather than something onto himself or herself. The church itself is regarded as a source of sanctification and blessing for all aspects of life. In the Orthodox Christian church,a great effort has been made to preserve the material elements of the sacraments. Orthodox Christians look down attempts by the Catholic church to minimize the material side of the sacraments such as pouring water rather than using immersion in baptism and using unleavened rather than leavened bread in the Eucharist.

Sacraments, Baptism by Nicolas Poussin

Idea Behind the Sacraments

“According to the BBC: “Christians regard a sacrament as an outward sign of an inward grace or as an enacted truth. But that's probably not much more helpful... Here's another definition: A sacrament is an an action made holy or special because of its believed ability to demonstrate a religious truth, or a truth about God. |::|

“Think about it like this... if someone says "I love you" and you believe them, that's great. If they say "I love you", and put their arms round you and give you a great big hug, you get the truth of what they're saying in a different and more powerful way. A hug is an outward sign of the love they have inside. Or take some of the saints of old who gave their lives for others. Saying that you love all humanity is one thing. Dying to save others is a very powerful way of acting out the truth of your words. |::|

Paul Halsall of Fordham University wrote: “Although Christians celebrated specific rituals - above all Baptism and the Eucharist - from the beginning, remarkably little time was spent by the early theologians of the Church discussing the meaning of these rituals. The main focus was on Baptism, both as to its meaning and as to its juridical implications. For the Latin West this concern with Baptism was to lead to a very specific terminology for some of the rituals. The Latin word sacramentum - which meant "oath" - was applied to Baptism in connection with its establishing of a "new covenant" between a human being an God. In time this term "sacrament"became the focus of theologization of the Church's rites. For a very long period, the exact number of sacraments was undefined, and even exactly which ceremonies were "sacramental". In the 12th and 13th centuries the Latin Church saw the development of both a popular devotional focus on the sacraments (especially the Eucharist, which came, in some cases, to play the role previously dominated by relics), and of "sacramental theology". [Source:]

“In Greek Christianity these various Christian rites were called "mysteries" [i.e. things to be hidden from unbelievers] and the exact number of them was defined in a variety of ways. Even though Orthodox Christians today will usually agree that there are seven sacraments, but will also want to include such important rituals as funerals and monastic vows as "sacramental". “It was in its contact with Eastern Christians that the Latin Church was forced to define - for the first time - the number and nature of its sacraments.”

Sacraments, Ordination by Nicolas Poussin (1647)

Origin of the Seven Sacraments

The Profession of Faith of Michael Paleologus (II Council of Lyons, 1274) seems to have been the first important Church document which listed the seven sacraments. It was a profession of faith demanded of this Byzantine Emperor when he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1274. Part of it reads: “The same Holy Roman Church also holds and teaches that there are seven sacraments of the Church: one is baptism, which has been mentioned above; another is the sacrament of confirmation which bishops confer by the laying on of hands while they anoint the reborn; then penance, the Eucharist, the sacrament of order, matrimony and extreme unction which, according to the doctrine of the Blessed James, [James 5:14-15] is administered to the sick. The same Roman Church performs (conficit) the sacrament of the Eucharist with unleavened bread; she holds and teaches that in this sacrament the bread is truly transubstantiated into the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the wine into His blood. As regards matrimony, she holds that neither is a man allowed to have several wives at the same time nor a woman several husbands. But, when a legitimate marriage is dissolved by the death of one of the spouses, she declares that a second and afterwards a third wedding are successively licit, if no other canonical impediment goes against it for any reason.nst it for any reason. [Source: The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church, rev ed., ed. J. Neusner and J Dupuis, (New York: Alba House, 1982), no. 28 (p. 19) [= Denzinger-Schönmetzer, Enchiridion, 860,]

The Decree for the Armenians, issued at the Council of Florence in 1439, published as the Bull Exsultate Domine by Pope Eugenius IV, went far beyond the 1274 list, in that it put forth a specific sacramental theology of matter and form, derived from Aquinas' treatise "On the Articles of Faith and the Sacraments of the Church". The Council of Florence, as well as attempting to bring about Union with the Greek Orthodox, also aimed to unite with the Armenian Church.

The Decree for the Armenians, Council of Florence 1439 reads: ““There are seven sacraments under the new law: that is to say, baptism, confirmation, the mass, penance, extreme unction, ordination, and matrimony. These differ essentially from the sacraments of the old law; for the latter do not confer grace, but only typify that grace which can be given by the passion of Christ alone. But these our sacraments both contain grace and confer it upon all who receive them worthily. [Source: James Harvey Robinson, ed., Readings in European History: Vol. I: (Boston:: Ginn and co., 1904), 348―54, = Denzinger-Schönmetzer, Enchiridion, 1310-27, ]

“The first five sacraments are intended to secure the spiritual. perfection of every man individually; the two last are ordained for the governance and increase of the Church. For through baptism we are born again of the spirit; through confirmation we grow in grace and are strengthened in the faith; and when we have been born again and strengthened we are fed by the divine food of the mass ; but if, through sin, we bring sickness upon our souls, we are made spiritually whole by penance; and by extreme unction we are healed, both spiritually and corporeally, according as our souls have need ; by ordination the Church is governed and multiplied spiritually ; by matrimony it is materially increased.

“To effect these sacraments three things are necessary: the things [or symbols], that is, the " material"; the words, that is, the "form"; and the person of the "ministrant," who administers the sacrament with the intention of carrying out what the Church effects through him. If any of these things be lacking, the sacrament is not accomplished.

“Three of these sacraments ― baptism, confirmation, and ordination ― impress indelibly upon the soul a character, a certain spiritual sign, distinct from all others; so they are not repeated for the same person. The other four do not imprint a character upon the soul, and admit of repetition.”

Baptism: First Sacrament

Greek Orthodox baptism

According to The Decree for the Armenians, Council of Florence 1439: “Holy baptism holds the first place among all the sacraments because it is the gate of spiritual life, for by it we are made members of Christ and of the body of the Church. Since through the first man death entered into the world [cf. Rom 5:12] , unless we are born again of water, and of the spirit, we cannot, so saith Truth, enter into the kingdom of heaven [cf. John 3:5]. The material of this sacrament is water, real and natural ―― it matters nothing whether it be cold or warm. Now the form is: "I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." {rest added from Neusner-Dupuis} or "By my hand N. is baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit". For as the principal cause from which Baptism derives its virtue is the Holy Trinity, while the instrumental cause is the minister who confers the sacrament externally, the sacrament is performed whenever the act carried out by the minister is expressed along with the invocation of the Holy Trinity. [Source: James Harvey Robinson, ed., Readings in European History: Vol. I: (Boston:: Ginn and co., 1904), 348―54, = Denzinger-Schönmetzer, Enchiridion, 1310-27, ]

“The ministrant of this sacrament is the priest, for baptism belongs to his office. But in case of necessity not only a priest or deacon may baptize, but a layman or a woman ― nay, even a pagan or a heretic, provided be use the form of the Church and intend to do what the Church effects. The efficacy of this sacrament is the remission of all sin, original sin and actual, and of all penalties incurred through this guilt. Therefore no satisfaction for past sin should be imposed on those who are baptized ; but if they die before they commit any sin, they shall straightway attain the kingdom of heaven and the sight of God.

Baptism in the 4th Century

Egeria wrote in the A.D. 380s: “The Inscribing of the Competents: XLV Moreover, I must write how they are taught who are baptised at Easter. Now he who gives in his name, gives it in on the day before Quadragesima, and the priest writes down the names of all; this is before the eight weeks which I have said are kept here at Quadragesima. [Source: “Egeria's Description of the Liturgical Year in Jerusalem” based on the translation reproduced in Louis Duchesme's Christian Worship (London, 1923), published online by Michael Fraser, Department of Theology, University of Durham. June 1994, ]

Baptism of Christ

“2. And when the priest has written down the names of all, after the next day of Quadragesima, that is, on the day when the eight weeks begin, the chair is set for the bishop in the midst of the great church, that is, at the martyrium, and the priests sit in chairs on either side of him, while all the clergy stand. Then one by one the competents are brought up, coming, if they are males (viri) with their fathers, and if females (feminae), with their mothers.

“3. Then the bishop asks the neighbours of every one who has entered concerning each individual, saying: "Does this person lead a good life, is he obedient to his parents, is he not given to wine, nor deceitful?" making also inquiry about the several vices which are more serious in man.

“4. And if he has proved him in the presence of witnesses to be blameless in all these matters concerning which he has made inquiry, he writes down his name with his own hand. But if he is accused in any matter, he orders him to go out, saying: " Let him amend, and when he has amended then -let him come to the font (lavacrum)." And as he makes inquiry concerning the men, so also does he concerning the women. But if any be a stranger, he comes not so easily to Baptism, unless he has testimonials from those who know him.

Preparation for Baptism: Catechisings in the 4th Century

Egeria wrote in the A.D. 380s: “XLVI This also I must write, reverend sisters, lest you should think that these things are done without good reason. The custom here is that they who come to Baptism through those forty days, which are kept as fast days, are first exorcised by the clergy early in the day, as soon as the morning dismissal has been made in the Anastasis. Immediately afterwards the chair is placed for the bishop at the martyrium in the great church, and all who are to be baptised sit around, near the bishop, both men and women, their fathers and mothers standing there also. Besides these, all the people who wish to hear come in and sit down--the faithful however only. [Source: “Egeria's Description of the Liturgical Year in Jerusalem” based on the translation reproduced in Louis Duchesme's Christian Worship (London, 1923), published online by Michael Fraser, Department of Theology, University of Durham. June 1994, ]

“2. No catechumen enters there when the bishop teaches the others the Law. Beginning from Genesis he goes through all the Scriptures during those forty days, explaining them, first literally, and then unfolding them spiritually. They are also taught about the Resurrection, and likewise all things concerning the Faith during those days. And this is called the catechising.

Confirmation: Second Sacrament


According to The Decree for the Armenians, Council of Florence 1439: “The second sacrament is confirmation. The material is the chrism made from oil, which signifies purity of conscience, and from balsam, which signifies the odor of fair fame; and it must be blessed by the bishop. The form is: " I sign thee with the sign of the cross and confirm thee with the chrism of salvation, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." [Source: James Harvey Robinson, ed., Readings in European History: Vol. I: (Boston:: Ginn and co., 1904), 348―54, = Denzinger-Schönmetzer, Enchiridion, 1310-27, ]

“The proper ministrant of this sacrament is the bishop. While a simple priest avails to perform the other anointings, this one none can confer save the bishop only ― for it is written of the apostles alone that by the laying on of hands they gave the Holy Ghost, and the bishops hold the office of the apostles. We read in the Acts of the Apostles, when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard how Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John ; who, when they were come, prayed that they might receive the Holy Ghost; for as yet it was fallen upon none of them, ― they were only baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands upon them and they received the Holy Ghost. [Acts 8:14-17] Now, in place of this laying on of hands, confirmation is given in the Church. Yet we read that sometimes, for reasonable and urgent cause by dispensation from the Holy See, a simple priest has been permitted to administer confirmation with a chrism prepared by a bishop.

“In this sacrament the Holy Ghost is given to strengthen us, as it was given to the apostles on the day of Pentecost, that the Christian may confess boldly the name of Christ. And therefore he is confirmed upon the brow, the seat of shame, that he may never blush to confess the name of Christ and especially his cross, which is a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles [cf. 1 Cor 1:23], according to the apostle. Therefore he is signed with the sign of the cross.

Eucharist: Third Sacrament

The Decree for the Armenians (1439) reads:“The third sacrament is the Eucharist. The material is wheaten bread and wine of the grape, which before consecration should be mixed very sparingly with water; because, according to the testimony of the holy fathers and doctors of the Church set forth in former times in disputation, it is believed that the Lord himself instituted this sacrament with wine mixed with water, and also because this corresponds with the accounts of our Lord's passion. For the holy Pope Alexander, fifth from the blessed Peter, says, " In the offerings of sacred things made to God during the solemnization of the mass, only bread and wine mixed with water are offered up. Neither wine alone nor water alone may be offered up in the cup of the Lord, but both mixed, since it is written that both blood and water flowed from Christ's side." [cf. John 19:34: Pseudo-Alexander I, Epistola ad omnes orthodoxos, 9] [Source: James Harvey Robinson, ed., Readings in European History: Vol. I: (Boston:: Ginn and co., 1904), 348―54, = Denzinger-Schönmetzer, Enchiridion, 1310-27, ]

“Moreover the mixing of water with the wine fitly signifies the efficacy of this sacrament, namely, the union of Christian people with Christ, for water signifies "people," according to the passage in the Apocalypse which says, "many waters, many people." [cf. Rev 17:15] And Julius, second pope after the blessed Sylvester, says: " According to the provisions of the canons the cup of the Lord should be offered filled with wine mixed with water, because a people is signified by the water, and in the wine is manifested the blood of Christ. Therefore when the wine and water are mixed in the cup the people are joined to Christ, and the host of the faithful is united with him in whom they believe." [Pseudo-Julius I: Epistola ad episcopos Aegypti]

“Since, therefore, the holy Roman Church, instructed by the most blessed apostles Peter and Paul, together with all the other churches of the Greeks and Latins in which glowed the light of sanctity and of doctrine, has from the beginning of the nascent Church observed this custom and still observes it, it is quite unseemly that any region whatever, should depart from this universal and rational observance. We decree, therefore, that the Armenians likewise shall conform themselves with the whole Christian world, and their their priests shall mix a little water with the wine in the cup of oblation.

“The form of this sacrament is furnished by the words of the Saviour when he instituted it, and the priest, speaking in the person of Christ, consummates this sacrament. By virtue of these words, the substance of the bread is turned into the body of Christ and the substance of the wine into his blood. This is accomplished in such wise that the whole Christ is altogether present under the semblance of the bread and altogether under the semblance of the wine. Moreover, after the consecrated host and the consecrated wine have been divided, the whole Christ is present any part of them.

“The benefit effected by this sacrament in the souls of those who receive it worthily is the union of man with Christ. And since, through grace, man is made one body with Christ and united in his members, it follows that through this sacrament grace is increased in those who partake of it worthily. Every effect of material food and drink upon the physical life, in nourishment, growth, and pleasure, is wrought by this sacrament for the spiritual life. By it we recall the beloved memory of our Saviour; by it we are withheld from evil, and strengthened in good, and go forward to renewed growth in virtues a graces.

Penance and Extreme Unction: Forth and Fifth Sacraments

According to the Decree for the Armenians (1439): “The fourth sacrament is penance. The material, as we may say, consists in the acts of penitence, which are divided into three parts. The first of these is contrition of the heart, wherein the sinner must grieve for the sins he has committed, with the resolve to commit no further sins. Second comes confession with the mouth, to which it pertains that the sinner should make confession to his priest of all the sins he holds in his memory. The third is satisfaction for sins according to the judgment of the priest, and this is made chiefly by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The form of this sacrament consists in the words of absolution which the priest speaks when be says, "I absolve thee," etc. ; and the minister of this sacrament is the priest, who has authority to absolve either regularly or by the commission of a superior. The benefit of this sacrament is absolution from sins. [Source: James Harvey Robinson, ed., Readings in European History: Vol. I: (Boston:: Ginn and co., 1904), 348―54, = Denzinger-Schönmetzer, Enchiridion, 1310-27, ]

“The fifth sacrament is extreme unction, and the material is oil of the olive, blessed by a bishop. This sacrament shall not be given to any except the sick who are in fear of death. They shall be anointed in the following places: the eyes on account of the sight, the ears on account of the hearing, the nostrils on account of smell, the mouth on account of taste and speech, the hands on account of touch, the feet on account of walking, and the loins as the seat of pleasure. The form of this sacrament is as follows: "Through this holy unction and his most tender compassion, the Lord grants thee forgiveness for whatever sins thou hast committed by the sight," ― and in the same way for the other members. [Source: James Harvey Robinson, ed., Readings in European History: Vol. I: (Boston:: Ginn and co., 1904), 348―54, = Denzinger-Schönmetzer, Enchiridion, 1310-27, ]

“The minister of this sacrament is a priest. The benefit is even the healing of the mind and, so far as is expedient, of the body also. Of this sacrament the blessed apostle James says: " Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him." [James 5:14]

Extreme Unction (1644) by Nicolas Poussin

Unction (Anointing the Sick)

Unction is anointing the sick with oil. Regarded by Catholics and some other Christians as a sacrament, it is thought to alleviate suffering by bringing peace to the souls of the sick, dying and aged. Orthodox Christians regard as a kind of faith healing that is used to treat people with physical, mental and spiritual problems or who need purification.

The Gospels report that Christ cured the sick and brought them to their feet by the laying-on of hands. He introduced this form of healing to the Apostles, adding to it the anointment of oil. In his Epistle Saint James wrote: “Any one of you who is ill should send for the elders of the church, and they must anoint the sick person with oil in the name of the Lord and pray over him. The prayer of faith will save the sick person and the Lord will raise him up again,: and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.” (Jer 5:14-15). As this scripture makes clear absolution entails spiritual healing as well as physical healing.

Under the procedures prescribed by this sacrament in the Catholic church, a priest silently lays hands on the sick person, anointing the sick with oil — blessed by a bishop on Maundy Thursday (three days before Easter) during the chrism mass — on the forehead and the hands accompanied with the name of the sick person and worlds: “through his holy anointing, may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.”

Extreme Unction refers to ritual anointment when death seems imminent. In the old days for superstitious reasons, so not to invite death, families waited until the last moment before calling in a priest to perform the last anointment and viaticum (last communion, or last rites). The Second Vatican Council reintroduced anointing the sick which negated the need to wait until the last moment for anointment.

See Holy Oil

Ordination and Marriage: Sixth and Seventh Sacraments

wedding of Louis of France

The Decree for the Armenians (1439) reads:”The sixth sacrament is ordination. The material for the priesthood is the cup with the wine and the paten with the bread; for the deaconate, the books of the Gospel; for the subdeaconate, an empty cup placed upon an empty Paten; and in like manner, other offices are conferred by giving to the candidates those things which pertain to their secular ministrations. The form for priests is this: "Receive the power to offer sacrifice in the Church for the living and the dead, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." And so for each order the proper form shall be used, as fully stated in the Roman pontifical. The regular minister of this sacrament is a bishop; benefit, growth in grace, to the end that whosoever is ordained may be a worthy minister. [Source: James Harvey Robinson, ed., Readings in European History: Vol. I: (Boston:: Ginn and co., 1904), 348―54, = Denzinger-Schönmetzer, Enchiridion, 1310-27, ]

“The seventh sacrament is matrimony, the type of the union of Christ and the Church, according to the apostle who saith, "This is a great mystery" [Eph. 5:32 ― In the Vulgate Paul's word "mysterion" is translated "sacramentum"] ; but I speak concerning Christ and the church." The efficient caususe of marriage is regularly the mutual consent uttered aloud on the spot. These advantages are to be ascribed to marriage: first, the begetting of children and their bringing up in the worship of the Lord; secondly, the fidelity that husband and wife should each maintain toward the other; thirdly the indissoluble character of marriage, for this typifies the indissoluble union of Christ and the Church. Although for the cause of adultery separation is permissible, for no other cause may marriage be infringed, since the bond of marriage once legitimately contracted is perpetual.

Christian Ordination

According to Catholic teaching only a bishop in the Apostolic succession has the right to ordain priests and deacons through the laying of hands, while for Protestants all the is needed is an inner calling and training and the determination and dedication necessary to become a priest. The laying of hands by other minister is mostly symbolic.

laying of hands during a Finnish Lutheran ordination

Ordination in the Catholic church is a special ceremony in which bishops, priests, deacons and other clergy take the Holy Orders (special vows) and are officially designated to do the work of the church. It is regarded by Catholics and some other Christians a sacrament. Holy Orders are conferred by the laying of hands on the head of the ordained and then by the prayer of ordination. During the ordination of priests, any priests must lay their hands on the new candidate. Anointment to the heads of bishops and to the hands of priests are complementary rituals.

The process of ordination in the Orthodox church begins with a nomination by a local congregation and ends with the formal laying of hands by a bishop in the name of the Church Universal. In the ordination ceremony, a candidate is brought before the congregation assembled to authorize the ordination. After formal approval is granted by the laity, the bishop lays his hands on the candidate and invokes divine help. The united prayers of the whole church are necessary to fullfil this sacrament.

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); King James Version of the Bible,; New International Version (NIV) of The Bible,; “Egeria's Description of the Liturgical Year in Jerusalem” ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, , Metropolitan Museum of Art, Frontline, PBS, “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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